‘Mixed-ish’ Showrunner: Black History Is ‘About Pushing Our Stories Forward’ (Guest Column)

Karin Gist

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So … every February my social media timeline is flooded with Black History Month celebrations. We all claim it fiercely and remind each other that this is not just something we should be doing in February, but all year round. We share stories we were taught in school and then dig up unknown heroes that don’t get enough mention or attention. Black History Month is like an oil check to remind us all that we were here and made a change. Not that we need to be reminded of that. But … well, that’s another article …

As I reflect on Black History Month, my mind started thinking about history in general. History is a living, breathing thing that is made simply by the passing seconds. That extremely hard run that I did on the Peloton this morning? It’s already history. Every day we all get up and make history. Every single act is a piece of history.

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So that’s what makes what I get to do every single day even more amazing. I’ve realized just how lucky I am. I’ve been working as a television writer and producer for (coughs) a long time. And every day I have the privilege of waking up and making TV that celebrates who we are and what we have. I have had the honor of working on shows such as “Girlfriends,” “House of Lies,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Star” and “Mixed-ish.” Each of these shows has allowed me to make heroes out of ordinary black folks and be a part of black history on television. Pinch me and then pinch me again. I get to celebrate the humanity of black people through characters that look like my cousins, play cousins, aunts and uncles. I get to see them laugh and cry, fight and make up. And I get to put that on television. That is a blessing and I take it very seriously.

So for me, black history is keeping that as my North Star. It’s about pushing our stories forward, saying something surprising and maybe even a little naughty sometimes. It’s about being as honest as possible on the page. It’s about telling stories about the best of us and delving into characters that might feel like the worst of us because that’s what real humanity is. It’s about showing that we are complex and complicated because that’s where good characters live … in the murky grey of life.

Black history is also about making sure that we are continuing to make history behind the scenes by bringing up more writers of color and supporting the work that we all do. It’s about being a piece of history for younger writers to see and hopefully be inspired to pick up the torch and “run, run Jackie run!” It’s about knowing that there is room for all of us to make history so that we will fill more shelves with books and flood more timelines with stories of greatness for Februarys to come … and all damn year.

Karin Gist has written for “Grey’s Anatomy” and “One Tree Hill.” Gist has also worked as an executive producer for “Mixed-ish” and “Star.” She is currently writing and producing the upcoming “Sister Act 3.”

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